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On the Alleged Introduction of Syphilis from the New World. Also 
some notes on the Local and Imported Diseases into America. By 
Wm. Bollaebt, F.A.S.L., Cor. Mem. Univ. Chile; of the 
Amer. Ethno. Soc. ; of the Ethno. Soc, London, &c. 

In 1825, when at Buenos Ayres, and observing that both gonorrhoea 
or blennorrhagia, and syphilis * were very common among the white 
and mixed portion of the population, I made inquiries as to whether 
these diseases were met with among the Indians of that country. I 
was informed, as far as was known on this point, the Indians were free 
from them. 

In the autumn of the same year I was weather-bound in Nassau 
Bay, just behind Cape Horn. The Indians there were nearly naked, 
a few only having a little piece of seal-skin over the shoulders ; and 
although there were signs that foreign shipping (as sealers and whal- 
ers) had been thereabouts, I saw no indication of cither disease. 

The latter end of the year I arrived at the port of Valparaiso, where 
there are certain localities called " Tops," the residence of the prosti- 
tute population, frequented by sailors of all nations, and there could 
be no doubt that syphilis and gonorrhoea were rife. I then travelled 
about the central portion of Chile, but did not learn that the Peons, 
or labouring population (Mestizos) were afflicted with either disease. 
For some years I resided in Peru, and visited Bolivia, but heard of no 
cases amongst those Indians, who lived distant from the whites, 
mestizos, or mulattos. However, among the whites and mixed breeds 
the diseases were very common. 

In coming from Peru to Chile by land, along the shores of the 
desert of Atacama in 1829-30, I met some Indian families known as 
Changos ; I did not notice the disease amongst them. I went then 
among the Araucano Indians, and neither saw nor heard that they were 
so afflicted. 

In 1831, I was for some weeks in the Straits of Magellan, and had 
good opportunities of examining both sexes, when I observed what 
appeared to me to be syphilitic sores (chancres) among some of the 
women, and gonorrhoea among some of the men. I had no doubt 
that they had contracted these diseases from the crews of sealers and 
whalers who visited this portion of the continent ; and it was a well 
known fact that Indian women had often been stolen away by 3aid 

* A medical friend gives me the following. " The true etymology of many of 
the words used in describing some of the forms of venereal disease is somewhat 
obscure, e.g. the origin of the word syphilis is uncertain ; but I venture to sug- 
gest, under correction, that it might be derived from the Greek word auSap — a 
slough, or cast-off skin, also the wrinkled skin of an old man (or from <n<p\os, un- 
clean). If this be so, it points to the constitutional nature of the malady. Chancre 
is from the French, which in turn is from the Greek KarKipot, or cancer, alluding 
to the primary and external disease. Blennorrhagia is from fiKtvva, mucus, and 
pcai, to flow. Gonorrhoea is from 70^, semen, and ptu, to flow, and I should 
Ruspect has, in its pure sense, a reference to gleet, in the chronic form of the 


whalers and sealers, kept on board for a time, when doubtless the dis- 
eases had been communicated to them by Europeans. 

In 1840-2, when in Texas, I visited many tribes of Indians of that 
country, as well as remnants of tribes which had fled from the 
United States, but observed neither disease among them. In 1854-5 
I was again in South America, and neither saw nor heard of the dis- 
ease among the pure Indians. Whilst amongst the white people and 
mixed breeds, particularly in the cities and larger towns, syphilis and 
gonorrhoea were very common. 

So far my own experience as regards South and a portion of North 

I will now briefly allude to some historical accounts on this subject, 
particularly as regards the Old World. In the Aphorisms of Hippo- 
crates, 400 B.C., and in the Sentences of Celsus, 400 years after 
Hippocrates, as found in Sprengell's translations, in 1708. When 
Sprengell alludes to his own added Aphorisms " On the French dis- 
ease," he says, it was just known to former more temperate ages, 
and, in a note, how far it was known in former ages, he refers to 
Ecclesiasticus, c. 19, v. 2, 3. Hippocrates, in. ; Epidemics, iii., 41, 
74, 59, and i. Be Morbus Mulierum, 127. Galen, lib. iv. ; Meth. c. 5, 
and lib. i. De Genet:, c. 23 ; lib. iii. Epidemics, sec. 3, com. 25. Pliny 
His. Nat., lib. 26, c. i. Aviceti, lib. 2. Valesius ; Rhodius ; Vigo- 
nius, Lib. de Morb. Gall., c. &c. And that it does not, according to 
the vulgar opinion, derive its origin from Naples, France, East or 
West Indies. Josephus, c. xi., p. 108, says, when on the subject of 
purification, that Moses ordered those who had gonorrhoea should not 
come into the city. 

We hear of syphilis, or that it began to be very prevalent or made 
public in Europe in the latter years of the fifteenth century. The idea 
has been thrown out in our own time that it might have been long 
previously known in a milder form. It is said there was ground for 
believing that syphilis was brought into western Europe on the return 
of the crusaders. There were seven crusades to the Holy Land from 
1099 to the reign of Edward I, about 1272. 

In Dr. Simpson's valuable Memoir regarding the appearance of syphi- 
lis in Scotland, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (see Trans. Epi- 
demiological Soc. London, 1862) he alludes to Peter Pinctor's assertion 
that syphilis was well known in 1483. Now, if this were so, added to 
what we know about a contagious disease known in very early times as 
the Morbus Mulierum, then the bringing of the disease from America 
on the return of Columbus in his first voyage, which was in March, 
1493, just ten years after the period mentioned by Peter Pinctor, must 
I think be given up by those who have merely supposed that syphilis 
was originally brought from the New World by the Spanish dis- 

Fulgosi, in his Griiner's Aphrodisiacus, p. 115, gives 1492 as the 
date of its general appearance in Europe, which is a year before the 
discovery of the New World. It was, about 1493, generally thought 
that the diseases had sprung up spontaneously and endemically in 
Italy, France, and Spain. If, however, in 1494-5, it was distinctly 

VOL. II. — no. vi. s 


recognised in Italy during the invasion of that country by Charles VIII 
of France, which was scarcely two years after Columbus returned 
from his first voyage from the West Indies. Chavles VIII returned to 
France in May, 1495, and syphilis, it is mentioned, was generally dis- 
seminated on the march home by his troops, composed of his own 
people, Swiss, German, and Flemish auxiliaries. 

I will now refer to living's Life of Columbus, composed from the 
very best materials. At vol. 1, p. 103, when describing the Indians 
of Hispanola in his first voyage, Columbus says, " they are contented 
with such simple diet, whereby health is preserved and disease avoided." 
Columbus brought six Indians with him to Europe, where he arrived 
in March, 1493, but. nothing is mentioned as to their being in any way 
diseased. He left Spain on his second voyage in September, 1493, 
arriving at the fort of Navidad, where he had left a small party of 
Spaniards with orders to be kind to the Indians and ingratiate them- 
selves with them. The reverse took place ; many of the Spaniards 
were of the lowest sort and of most sensual character. They stole 
away Indian women, forcing them to live with them in the fort ; this 
so irritated the Indians that the fort was besieged and attacked, and 
all the Spaniards were most probably got rid of.* 

Columbus abandoned this locality and proceeded to found the city 
of Isabella, when his followers suffered much from the climate and 
fevers ; this was in March, 1494, for which period Irving observes 
that many Spaniards suffered also under the torments of a disease 
hitherto unknown to them, the scourge as toas supposed of their licen- 
tious intercourse with the Indian females ; but the origin of which, 
whether American or European, has been a subject of great dispute." 
Here we have but a sttpposilion, and my firm impression is, that had 
either of the diseases been known to the Indians, the Spaniards, who 
were very good chroniclers, would have given some details. We now 
come to the latter part of 1494, when Pedro Margarite and others 
ran away from Isabella to Spain. " Some ascribed his abrupt de- 
parture to the fear of a severe military investigation of his conduct ; 

* I will here advert to a singular story, told me lately by Herr , consul for 

a foreign power to Mexico, as connected with a friend of his, who died at Orizaba. 
His friend had exposed himself to contagion with a Quarterona. A few hours 
afterwards the member began to swell, causing excruciating pain ; at the ex- 
tremity there was a crown or ruff of various colours. Herr went for a doctor, 

who, on examining the patient, said that he must have been with the said Quarte- 
rona, who had communicated the same to three or four others, and they had died ; 
that it was his opinion that his present patient would share the same fate — the 
individual did die in a few days. The Quarterona was arrested and sent to a 

house of incurables ; as to her fate there is no information. Herr informed 

me that this class of venereal is called the crUtalina, or crystallised syphilis ; 
that a few similar cases bad occurred in the city of Mexico ; and that something 
of tho sort had formerly been known in Cadiz. He also gave me the following 
as the supposed origin of this cristalina. In 1493, Columbus, ere he left the 
West Indies to bring to Europe tho news of his discovery of the New World, 
erected tho fort of Navidad in Hispanola, leaving some of his followers there. 
Ou his return from Spain, he found that the whole of them had been killed or 
had died. It is said that some of them were affected with syphilis brought from 
Spain, and gave the disease to the Indian women with whom they had lived, and 
from these sprung the cristalina, which I think to be very doubtful. 


others to his having, in the course of his licentious amours, con- 
tracted a malady at that time new and unknown (?), and which he 
attributed to the climate, and hoped to cure it by medical assistance 
in Spain." 

Let us suppose that Margarite was afflicted with syphilis, there is 
no evidence that he had contracted it from the Indian female as a 
disease natural to the country. If he took the disease from an In- 
dian woman, she had, in all probability, been inoculated by a diseased 
Spaniard ; but it is far more probable, if he had syphilis, that he had 
contracted it in Europe, or from some of his own countrywomen in 
the colony. 

We come now to 1497, when an edict was issued about syphilis at 
Aberdeen as a disease that came out of France and other strange 
parts. It was also called the sickness of Naples, the gor, gore, and 
grangore, a contagious plague afflicting male and female. The terms 
gore and grangore are of French origin, as — verole, small pox, grande 
verole, large pox or syphilis.* 

In 1500 we find syphilis called in Scotland pokes and Spanyie 
pockis ; but it was generally denominated the French disease. Ital- 
ians, Germans, and English spoke of it as the disease of Naples. The 
Dutch, Flemings, Portuguese, and Moors as the Spanish malady; 
and the Spaniards to this day call it Galico or French disease ; but we 
never hear it quoted as the American disease. 

Gonorrhoea was in full vigour in London in 1430, and known as 
clap or brenning, and its existence spoken of a century earlier, in 
the time of Richard II. 

There can be no doubt that syphilis existed extensively at Naples, 
and was brought into Western Europe with the return of Charles VIII 
from that country in May 1495. I may here observe that when Co- 
lumbus returned to Europe from the New World in May 1493, there 
is no allusion at that date that syphilis was brought from America. 
When Sir. R. Alcock was asked by a friend of mine as to the exist- 
ence of syphilis in Japan, he said it was known as the Portuguese 
disease, and was common there. 

However, as regards the New World, history gives no evidence as 
to the disease having been brought from there, and the non-existence 
of both of the diseases amongst those Indians at the present time re- 
moved from proximity to the whites and mixed breeds is, to me, a 
still more convincing proof that syphilis, as it has been well known before 
and since the end of the 15th century, is not of New World origin. 

Benzoni, who was very early in the West Indies and in Peru with 
Pizarro, speaks of the Morbus Gallicus, or French disease. Solaz- 
zano, Monarqtiia Indiana, lib. i, c. 4, p. 24, says it is most doubtful 
and uncertain that the venereal disease was introduced from the Old 

• See Des Divinites Generatrices ou du culte du Phallus, par J. A. D„ Paris, 
1805, p. 291. " On noramait au 15eme siecle, les courtisanes elegantes, gores 
(gore, a sow), gaures ou gaurieres, et les robes decoltees (low-bodied dresses), 
robes a la grante gore ; c'est pourquoi un predicateur celebre par ses buffooneries, 
frere Maillard, s'ecrie souvent contre les bourgeoises qui portent des robes a la 
giant gore." 



World into the New. He calls syphilis " the French or Bubatic." 
Frezier in 1719-14, in alluding to the hospitals in Lima, mentions San 
Lazaro for the cure of lepers and such as have venereal distemper. 

About 1742, the Ulloas, who were very close observers, being at 
Lima, thus allude to syphilis : " The venereal disease is equally com- 
mon in Peru, as in those countries we have already mentioned" (they 
had just come from New Granada and Quito) ; " it is, indeed, general 
in all that part of America ; and but little attention is given to it until 
arrived to a great height, the general custom in all those parts." As 
to the Indians, he says, i, p. 420 : " Though the venereal disease is so 
common in the country (amongst the Spauiards and mixed breeds), it 
is seldom known among them (the Indians), and, when observed, has 
been communicated by the whites or Mestizoes." 

Describing Quito, the Ulloas say: "The venereal disease is here 
so common, that few persons are free from it ; and many are afflicted 
with it without any of its external symptoms. Even little children, 
incapable by their age of having contracted it actively, have been 
known to have been attacked in the same manner by it as persons 
who have acquired it by their debauchery. Accordingly, there is no 
reason for caution in concealing this distemper, its commonness 
effacing the disgrace that in other countries attends it. The principal 
cause of its prevalence is negligence in the cure. Few are salivated 
for it, or will undergo the trouble of a radical cure." 

When first in South America, I was astonished to hear females say 
(sometimes rather in confidence) of any of their male acquaintances 
who complained of being unwell, there being no visible sign of illness — 
" pues es galiquente, y quizas de sus padres", he has been syphilised, 
perhaps, from his parents. 

Velasco, in his excellent Historia de Quito, i, 185, says, when speak- 
ing of the Indians of that country, " Amongst other diseases, they are 
free from venereal, which is falsely attributed to them, but brought 
to the country by the Europeans." 

Speaking of the Creeks and Cherokees in the United States, Bar- 
tram, who wrote in 1790 (Amer. Ethno. Soc. Trans., 43, 1853), ob- 
serves that they have the venereal in some of its stages. In some 
places it is scarcely known, and in none rises to that virulency which 
we call small-pox, unless sometimes amongst the white traders, who 
themselves say, as well as the Indians, that it might be eradicated if 
the white traders did not carry it with them to the natives when they 
return with their merchandize ; these contract the disorder before 
they set off, and it generally becomes virulent by the time they arrive, 
when they apply to the Indian doctors to get themselves cured. " I 
am inclined," says Bartram, " to believe that this disease originated 
in America (?) from the variety of remedies found among the Indians, 
all of which are vegetable. I have imagined that the disease is more 
prevalent as well as more malignant among the northern tribes, be- 
cause of their closer proximity to the whites. The vegetables are, 
various species of iris, croton, or styllingra or the yaw-weed, smilax, 
bignonia, and lobelia syphilitica." 

In Wilcocke's Buenos Ayres, p. 412: "The syphilitic disease, 


though very common amongst the inhabitants of the Spanish race, is 
seldom known among the Indians, and then only when communicated 
by the foreigner." 

Stevenson, in his Travels in South America, i, 405, remarks : 
" With what certainty the origin of syphilis has been traced to Ame- 
rica, I know not ; but the wild tribes of Arauco (Chile), Archidona 
and the Napo (Peru), those of Darien (New Granada), and several 
others, as well as those who live in small settlements among the 
Spaniards, are totally unacquainted with it; and, although I have 
been particularly inquisitive on this head, I never could hear of a 
solitary instance of the disease, except in large towns and cities, and 
then it was limited to a certain class (prostitutes), where it was likely 
to be most prevalent." 

I now come to a recent writer on subjects connected with the New 
World, who has again brought the subject of the existence of syphilis 
in America to our notice, and that it existed there at an ancient date. 

In vol. i, p. 181, Hist, cles Nations Civilisies du Mexique, par l'Abbe 
B. de Bourbourg, in detailing the legend of the deification of Nana- 
huatl, he says : " He is there with the others, but he is sick, he suf- 
fers from a terrible and incurable disease ; there is nothing now to 
attach him to life, the joys of which he has drained ... he throws 
himself into the flames, and is instantly burnt to ashes." In a note 
it is stated, " that the disease above mentioned was the American 
syphilis, which is somewhat different from that of Europe. Original 
and numerous documents, in the languages of those countries, have 
proved to us convincingly the existence of this disease in America 
before its discovery by Columbus." 

Upon so important a subject, I should have thought that reference 
would have been made to these " original and numerous documents"; 
for without them, that the sickness of Nanahuatl was the " American 
syphilis", may be very much questioned. 

At p. 182 of the same work, the abbe says: "Strange aberration 
of the human mind ! That which was most revolting concerning this 
deity, the most revolting of matter, to be clothed so mysteriously ; the 
symbols of grandeur and majesty, and the words which express the 
most infectious corruption of the human body, has even to this day, 
among a multitude of Indian nations, an analogous state, as that of 
the most elevated power." This is a most extraordinary paragraph. 
Had it had to do with phallic worship, we might have understood 
the affair. However, in a note, a far more extraordinary position 
of things appears ; it is as follows : " In all the Spanish translations 
of the history of Nanahuatl, he is continually called by the name of 
' Buboso'," which the abbe translates " syphilitic". This struck me 
as rather strange, and I have investigated what I believe to be the true 
meaning of the word buboso in this case; namely, that it merely 
comes from the Spanish word buba, a pustule, and that buboso has 
been applied to the syphilitic swellings in the glands known as buboes, 
but that this bubo of the aboriginal Mexican Indian was an ordinary 
pustule or tumour, and not syphilis. The abbe proceeds, having once 
persuaded himself that this buboso means syphilitic, " The word puz, 


which signifies the foul and corrupted matter of this disease, in the 
tzendal and in the otzile, becomes a verb to signify the sacrifice, and 
especially that of human victims ; it means, also, to enchant, to per- 
form miracles, or prodigies. Puz-naiocal, means enchanter, the great 
and marvellous man, etc. Galel-ahpop is a princely title, and galel- 
ya is a syphilitic. Xogahuah means princess, and lanlel yoghuah 
literally means, she made herself a princess, as well as ' exit ex ea 
syphilis'. Tepeu means great syphilis, or he who has a great deal of 
it ; gawal tepegal, divine, or the greatest majesty." After this rather 
hyper-philological dissertation — to me of very little value — the abbe 
proceeds : " Or is it, that the Spanish ecclesiastics in their catechism, 
being ignorant of the origin of these words, employed them to ex- 
press the most sacred things of our religion, in the Quichee and 
Cakchiquel ?" It would take a volume to write all on such matters, 
so multiplied and varied are they. "We have to apologise to our 
readers for this strange note ; but the circumstances have appeared so 
curious to us, that we have thought it our duty to lay it before the 
eyes of the learned.* 

In a paper by Professor Owen to the British Association, on the 
Andamans or Mincopies, long isolated from any other people, Dr. Jebb 
said : " I never met with any one of them affected with gonorrhoea, 
syphilis, intermittent fever, itch, piles, small-pox, goitre, or other 

In 1831, I became acquainted with Mr. Beale, a surgeon, who sub- 
sequently wrote the History of the Sperm Whale. At p. 375 of that 
work, he says, speaking of Tahiti : " But if Mars had afflicted them 
so sorely, Venus herself had been less kind than her consort ; their 
intercourse with foreigners had left their diseases, that were depopu- 
lating the islands; men, women, and even little children in arms, 
were suffering from this worst of Pandora's gifts, for the cure or 
alleviation of which they possessed neither knowledge nor means." 
At the period I speak of, I had long communications with him on the 
subject of the depopulation of many of the islands in the South Seas ; 

* I have lately had the subject of phallic worship in the New World brought 
to my notiee. My impression had been that it was unknown to the Bed Man. 
However, in a work entitled " Des Divinites Generatrices ou du culte du Phallus", 
already alluded to, it is mentioned as existing, " dans quelques parties de l'Ame- 
rique. Lorsque les Espagnoles firent la decouverte de cette partie du monde, ils 
trouverent oe culte etabli chez les Mexicaines." I find that this information is 
obtained from a work written by a gentleman who was with Cortes, who says : 
" In certain countries, particularly at Fanuco, on the northern coast of Mexico, 
the Phallus is worshipped (il membro che portano fra la gambe), and they keep 
in their temples." 

The Abbe B. de Bourbourg supposes the Phallic worship to have existed 
among the Allighewas, Algonquins, and Iroquois ; and there is good reason to 
believe that something connected with this worship has lately been observed 
among the Mandans. As far as I have at present examined this matter as regards 
South America, I have not as yet made out the existence of this worship there. 
Some of the older Spanish writers on the New World speak occasionally of the 
reported commission of unnatural crimes by the Indians, but about which the 
evidence is not at all clear. I have seen a few examples of iudecent execution 
in pottery from South America, but of a natural character only. 


when he gave me a copy of his pamphlet on the matter, in which he 
positively states that the diseases had been communicated to the 
islanders by the whalers and sealers ; and he proposed to the philan- 
thropists of his day to send to the said islands a number of young 
medical men to do their best to cure or arrest these dreadful scourges ; 
that these were the proper sort of men to improve the natives; that 
they (the surgeons) would explore the islands, make collections of 
natural history, to be sent home to our museums, and in this way 
repay in some measure the expense incurred. Mr. Beale's appeal 
was in vain. Missionaries only have been sent from England and the 
United States to the " heathen", but no medical men to cure the 
loathsome diseases contracted from the white man. 

As a medical curiosity in connection with this subject, I translate 
from the Mercurio Peruano, No. 323, 6th February, 1794, published 
in Lima. It is headed, " Publication of a Receipt by Royal Order, 
with a Note by the Seiior Oidor." '* In publishing this receipt, we 
should give our most cordial and reverent gratitude to the King of 
Spain our Lord, who is not unmindful, amongst his heavy troubles, 
of having a care for the health of his happy and so tenderly beloved 
vassals. The receipt sent will be dear to us, seeing that the various 
experiments made are most satisfactory, so that the Sovereign has 
ordered it to be published in his remote dominions. — Royal Order. 

" Excellent Seiior, — I remit to Y. E., by order of the King, the 
accompanying receipt, used by the Honorary Commissary of War, 
Don Rafael Ramos, Comptroller of the Military Hospital of New 
Orleans ; its advantages are well known for the cure of rheumatism, 
venereal, and scorbutics, so that the faculty of surgeons under Y. E.'s 
care may pay every attention to its use. God protect Y. E. — Palace, 
22 July, 1793. Alange — to the Lord Viceroy of Peru. 

"Instruction how to make the tincture: — Take 11 pints of good 
white wine, and macerate for three days ; zarzaparrilla 3 oz. ; holy 
wood 3 oz. ; zarzafras 3 oz. ; senna 4 oz. ; harmodatil 3 oz. ; tartar 
emetic 4 gr. ; hearts of pino 1 oz." 

" In the commencement, the tincture was only used in venereal cases, 
but it is now extended to scorbutic rheumatisms, humoral fluxion of 
the eyes, linfaticos oserosos in any portion of the body, to clean the 
kidneys, urethra, and bladder, or the impurities therein, taking away 
sand and even small calculi, useful in gout. Then venereal ulcers or 
gonorrhoea, exostosis (probably nodes), and other symptoms in the 
texture of the solid portions that have suffered, or have suffered 
alteration or disunion, the cure is not so rapid." 

When I went to South America in 1 825, a French quack medicine 
called pantamagogo was the rage ; it was taken for every mortal^ dis- 
ease, venereal included. I examined it, and it appeared to be a highly 
drastic tincture. With the arrival of European medical men, panta- 
magogo and some other quack rubbish were abandoned; still, many 
American and French patent medicines are patronised. 

On Local and Imported Diseases in America. — Mexico.-— 
Torquemada says in lib. vii., c. 29, to one of the deities were attri- 
buted diseases, as " small pox, swellings, abscesses, itch, and bad 


eyes." As to small pox, there may possibly have been an indigenous 
variety; but that which has much assisted to thin off the red men, 
say from a hundred millions to ten or twelve millions, was the Euro- 
pean. Las Casas calculated that, in the first forty years after the dis- 
covery of America, twelve to fifteen millions of the natives had been 
destroyed by the Spaniards, i.e., by war and its results, and disease. 
As to the introduction of small-pox into the New World, it is on 
record that as early as 1520 Narvaez, who joined Cortez with his 
fleet, had with him a negro who had the disease It spread rapidly 
in that part of Mexico, when numberless Indians fell victims. Maxi- 
ixa, the chief of Tlascala, took it and died, as did also Cuitlahua, the 
successor of Montezuma. Prescott observes that the small-pox at 
that time " was sweeping over the land like fire over the prairies — the 
natives perished in heaps, and that the small-pox was not known be- 
fore the arrival of the Spaniards." As early as 1515 this disease had 
begun to thin off the natives of the West Indies. 

Pests, or epidemies, are spoken of by various authors as depopulat- 
ing the country before and after the conquest. We know nothing of 
the symptoms of the visitations before the conquest. However, to 
this day, independent of the indigenous intermittent fevers in the 
some localities, there are bad bilious fevers on the Pacific coast, and 
yellow fevers running into black vomit on the Atlantic, particularly 
about Vera Cruz. 

These intermittent, bilious, and yellow fevers are traced in a nor- 
therly direction along the coast of Texas into the Southern States of 
North America. I took the yellow fever at New Orleans, for which 
large doses of calomel were given. In Texas for intermittent fever, I 
took quinine in pretty large quantities and was bled ; but to get rid 
of this last fever I had to seek a change of climate. 

Texas. — In 1840-2 I explored a great portion of this country. On 
the coast, in the Autumn, the bilious would rapidly change into 
yellow fever, carrying off its victims. A hundred miles or more in 
the interior I have personally experienced bad intermittent fevers, but 
farther westward, and where the land is more elevated, the country is 
healthy. Indians of the interior going to the coast easily catch the 

B. de Bourboug (ii. vol. of his His. du Mesciqiie, 596) says, " about 
1464, Mayapan, in Yucatan, was destroyed by civil wars. After a 
period of great abundance came a famine, when multitudes of animals 
died and putrified ; this was succeeded by a peste or epidemic, which 
commenced the depopulation of the peninsula of Yucatan. And in 
vol. iii, p, 497, he speaks of Tlalocan, a sort of terrestrial paradise 
for those who had died by lightning, or drowned, the lepers, the sy- 
philitics, the itchy, gouty, etc. The warriors who had died on the 
field of battle were taken up amongst the stars." As to the list of 
diseases, they are, I conceive, of Spanish origin, and not Indian. 

New Granada. — What Ulloa wrote years since, applies in a great 
measure to the present time. The climate, jiarticularly of the coast, 
is very hot with much rain. The complexion of the people is livid, 
and the young are mostly affected by disease. 


The first disease is called Chapetonada (in allusion to the name of 
Chapeton given to the old Spaniards) and fatal to very many Euro- 
peans ; the attack lasts three or four days, when the patient rallies or 
dies ; this is the local yellow fever, and when in its most malignant 
state is the black vomit. 

The residents are subject to leprosy, which is by some attributed 
to eating large quantities of pork. Lepers are allowed to marry, and 
in this way the disease is perpetuated. They are confined within cer- 
tain limits, but allowed to go out begging. 

The itch and tetters (a cutaneous disease) are common ; an earth 
called maqumaqi is used as a remedy. There is a singular disease 
called cobrilla, or little snake, it is a tumour of a bad sort. Spasms 
and convulsions are common, and ofttimes fatal. 

At Porto Bello in particular, foreigners fall victims to the climate. 
It was a common opinion that parturition at Porto Bello was so dan- 
gerous among the European women that they generally died in child- 
bed ; so that when three or four months in pregnancy they were sent 
to Panama. European animals were so much affected by the climate 
that they scarcely bred. This Porto Bello has been and is still the 
hot bed of epidemics and mortal distempers with black vomit of a 
bad sort, and which made great havoc on one occasion, in 1726, to a 
British fleet. 

Quito. — Malignant spotted fevers and pleurisies are common in this 
country, and when they present themselves, say in the capital, gene- 
rally sweep away large numbers, indeed they are pestilential conta- 
gions. The mal de vicho was considered by Jussieu as gangrene of 
the rectum and not uncommon ; those who laboured under flux were 
most liable to the malady. There is no canine madness in the city 
of Quito. 

The people of this country are subject to a distemper unknown in 
Europe, and may be compared to the small-pox (?) which few or none 
escape ; it is called peste, its symptoms are convulsions, a continual 
endeavour to bite, delirium, vomiting of blood and is ofttimes fatal. 
This peste is not peculiar to Quito, but has been observed in other 
parts of South America. At Guayaquil, the principal port, during the 
winter months, there is much intermittent fever, yellow fever occa- 
sionally. The natives are subject to diseases of the eye and cataract. 
The Indians very much dread the visitation of the European small- 
pox, which comes about every seven or eight years, when it makes 
very great havoc. They have also mal del bicho, or, as called by them, 
sickness of the valleys. Tabardillo, or spotted fever, they have also, 
and cure in a very rough manner. Of late, hooping-cough or Tos de 
perro, dog's-cough, and measles of a bad sort, imported I conceive, 
have afflicted the Indians in this region, as well as in the north of 

Indians of the mountains in going to the coast catch tercianas, or 
intermittent fevers ; those of the coast who go to the high lands, 
suffer from cold and get inflammation of the lungs. 

Vclasco, in his Hisloria de Quito (iii, 66), alludes to the epidemics 
or pestes. There was one that visited nearly the whole of South 


America about the end of 1589. It commenced at Carthagena, tra- 
velling south to Quito ; in the capital 30,000 died out of 80,000. It 
is of this that Helps (Spanish Conq. in America, iv, p. 84) adverts to 
and quotes Lozano, His. of Paraguay. The epidemic was first noticed 
in Carthagena in 1588, and it passed over all South America to the 
Straits of Magellan. It was much more fatal to the natives than the 
Spaniards. The Indian children were so struck down by the epidemic 
that not one out of a hundred escaped with life. The Indians offered 
no mental resistance to the ravages of this disease, which seems to 
have resembled the diphtheria of modern times. In Lozano's 
words : " Cerrabanseles las fauces de manera, que ni daban passo 
de lo interior al aliento, feneciendo la miserable vida entre las con- 
gojas del ahogo." Their throats became closed up, and in such a 
manner that no sustenance could pass, thus ending their miserable 
lives in the horrors of choking. 

In 1645 Quito was visited by another peste called alformbrilla (St. 
Anthony's fire ?) and garotilla (quinsey) : 11,000 died of it in the 
city of Quito. Again, in 1759, there was another; of this Velasco, 
the historian, suffered. It was a sudden and violent fever, and severe 
head-ache, with the paleness of death, and great prostration; about one 
in a thousand of the Spaniards died of those who could obtain medical 
assistance, but 10,000 of the Indians who lived in the city perished. 
There was a fourth in 1785, a complication of diseases, including small- 
pox ; in five months from 20 to 25,000 died of it in the city of Quito 
and it3 vicinity. 

In 1560 Potosi was visited by a peste, many dying after only 
twenty-four hours illness. It appeared again the following year. In 
1684 there were great droughts and a deadly plague in Peru. Ulloa 
ii, p. 91 94, Voyages to South America, has some curious observ- 
ations on the " distempers " of Lima, which cannot in any way be 
congenial to health or the maintenance of a vigorous population even 
of the whites, to say nothing of some of the mixed breeds. The dis- 
tempers most common to Lima are malignant, intermittent, and ca- 
tarrhous fevers, pleurisies and constipations ; and these rage continu- 
ally in the city. The visitation of the small-pox in Quito as well as 
here is not annual, though when it prevails great numbers are swept off. 
Convulsions are common (unknown in Quito, but known in Cartha- 
gena) of the partial, malignant and arched, of which he gives a fear- 
ful account. Cancer in the womb is most common, most painful, 
very contagious, and almost incurable. Slow or hectic fevers are com- 
mon in this country and likewise contagious. 

Chile. — This is probably one of the best climates in America. 
However, the capital, situated at 1540 feet above the level of the sea, 
and under the great Andes, would be called by us rather severe, for in 
summer it is very hot during the day, and cold at night. It is subject 
to a malady known there as chavalongo, which is a putrid typhus fever, 
being very often fatal. It appears after the first autumnal rains and 
is caused by miasma. Tisis, or calentura, is not uncommon; when 
attacking the young it is called consumption, and older people, decline. 

Brazil. — When I first visited the coast of this country in 1831 I 


foimd it very hot, not unhealthy, but with occasional bilious fevers. 
However, some years afterwards yellow fever made its appearance, 
supposed to have come from the West Indies, and has continued at 
intervals. Cholera also visited Brazil. 

The Guayanas and Venezuela have their share of intermittent, 
bilious, and occasionally a little yellow fever. 

Climate. — The reason why great groups of humanity, as the whites, 
blacks, orientals, and red men of the New World enjoy general good 
health in their own country, is that each group has its own climate, 
and that their organisation is peculiarly fitted for the satisfactory assi- 
milation of the air they breathe, the food they eat, and other personal 
arrangements. However, when the white man goes to the country of 
the black or oriental, he soon discovers they are not congenial to him, 
to say nothing of the local diseases new and ofttimes fatal to him. 
Take the negro from his tropical lands to high northern or southern 
latitudes, he declines and dies before his time. Take the red man 
away from America, he soon pines, particularly in the climate of 
Europe ; he is prone to European diseases, as small-pox, measles, 
hooping-cough, etc. ; he might do better in Polynesia and India on 
the score of climate, but he must have no laborious occupation. 
Then what is the conclusion we are to arrive at ? Namely, that each 
great section of mankind thrives only in their own particular climate ; 
take them to another and the result is unsatisfactory. 

Idiocy among Indians. — I do not recollect having ever seen or 
heard of idiocy or insanity among the Indians, either in North or 
South America. There is, on the other hand, idiocy among the white 
descendants of the conquerors, and in some cities more than others, 
insanity is observed. 

Mr. Reddie stated in his paper to this Society on Anthropological 
Desiderata, read in February last, that idiocy was unknown among 
the negroes of Africa. 

The President, in proposing the thanks of the meeting to Mr. 
Bollaert, observed that the subject of the paper was one of great im- 
portance. It was Mr. Bollaert's opinion that there was no trustworthy 
evidence to prove that syphilis had been introduced into Europe from 
the New World. For his own part, he was not satisfied with the evi- 
dence brought forward, and he thought that further evidence ought to 
be sought for and adduced, not only with regard to the introduction 
of syphilis but to some other contagious diseases. The question was 
not to be settled by the authorities of ancient writers, but he conceived 
that much light might be thrown on it by archaeological discoveries. 
In no ancient skull that he was aware of had there been found any 
trace of syphilis, but it was easily discoverable in many modern skulls, 
the bone of the skull or the teeth being more or less affected by the 
disease. The question appeared to be in a very unsatisfactory state. 
They could form no judgment respecting it from the statements of old 
authors that had been brought forward, and he thought they must 
leave the matter to be elucidated by further discovery. They might, 
perhaps, arrive at some satisfactory result by the examination of an- 


cient skulls, for if marks of the disease could be found on skulls of 
persons who died before the discovery of America, such evidence 
would be conclusive. In the examination of most modern skulls of 
soldiers it had been ascertained that there was scarcely one skull of 
men who died in the army that was not affected by syphilis, and some 
were in a frightful state. Even some of the beautifully white prepared 
skulls on the table, which had been presented to the Society by Pro- 
fessor Hyrtl, showed marks of the disease. The President inquired 
whether any member then present knew of any ancient skull that 
had indications of syphilis. 

Mr. Caster Blake stated that about two years ago a skull was 
submitted to him, which was absurdly alleged to be the skull of 
Richard III, but it proved to be the skull of a female, and exhibited 
symptoms of having been affected with syphilis. The skull was said 
to have been associated with bones of the extinct Bos primigenius, but 
that sort of evidence was of a very doubtful kind. That was the only 
skull of reputed antiquity in which he had observed traces of syphilis. 

Mr. St. Clair observed, in reference to the contradictory state- 
ments of the origin of the disease — Europeans and Americans reci- 
procally asserting that it was derived from the other — that it might 
probably have sprung from the mixture of people very dissimilar to 
each other. If that were so, the contradictory evidence mentioned 
in the paper might be reconciled ; otherwise it seemed impossible to 
understand how those contradictory reports could have arisen. 

Mr. Pike said there was one hypothesis of the origin of the dis- 
ease which had not been suggested. It was well known that the 
alchemists of the middle ages introduced mercurial remedies in medical 
practice as cures for many diseases. Basil Valentine was one of those 
who had introduced such remedies. It seemed very possible, there- 
fore, that the severe symptoms of syphilis which became known about 
the period of the discovery of the New World might have resulted 
from the application of those strong remedies. Persons afflicted with 
the disease aggravated by that mode of treatment, might attribute it 
to importation from America ; the disease being in fact generated by 
uncleanly habits and by the use of mercury combined. Typhus was 
said to have been generated in a similar manner, and to have been 
afterwards communicated ; and he thought that syphilis might have 
originated and been communicated in the same way. 

Dr. Turle thought that few medical men would adopt the idea 
that the application of mercury could have been the cause of syphilis. 
There could be no doubt, indeed, that mercury greatly aggravated the 
symptoms, but it could not have produced them. There was unques- 
tionably a greater preponderance of the disease in modern times than 
in former periods, which would to some degree countenance the opinion 
that it had been introduced from America ; but he thought it could 
scarcely be doubted that it existed in Europe before the discovery of 
the New World. 

Sir Charles Nicholson noticed the supposed traditions among 
the Indians which it was conceived indicated the existence of the 
disease among them. As regarded the Mexicans, it might be observed 


that as they possessed no written language, no importance could be 
attached to any such statement respecting them. It was asserted that 
theypractised phallic worship, and that thatworship was connected with 
the disease of syphilis. He was not aware, however, that there was any 
evidence to prove the existence of phallic worship among the Indians 
of South America. One argument in support of the opinion that the 
disease first assumed a specific character at the end of the 15th cen- 
tury was, that no indication of it was to be found in the literature of 
the East, which it might be assumed would have been the case had 
the disease been known. The phallic worship among the Hindoos was 
not of the sensual character commonly supposed. It was connected 
with profound philosophy, and really meant nothing sensual, but was 
symbolic of the great generative powers of Nature. He thought that 
if syphilis had existed among the Hindoos it would have been sym- 
bolised in their works, which gave minute particulars of every sub- 
ject. So far as he was aware, there was no description in their writ- 
ings before the period of the discovery of America, to indicate clearly 
any knowledge of the disease. With respect to Australia, he said, it 
had made frightful havoc in that country, and the rapid disappearance of 
the native inhabitants had been attributed partly to that cause. With 
regard, however, to the extinctiou of aboriginal races, he observed that 
there was another cause in operation which tended more effectually 
to produce that effect. The women were generally less numerous 
than the men ; that was particularly the case among all the islands of 
the South Pacific, and in all parts of the world so circumstanced the 
original races were dying out and would soon become extinct. The 
real cause of it is, that where there is a great disparity of the sexes, 
and the women are much less numerous than the men, virtual prosti- 
tution exists, and the consequences are unfertility and extinction of 

Mr. Witt said he could not perceive much connection between 
phallic worship and syphilis ; but the existence of that worship in 
South America and in Central America he thought was proved by Count 
de Walder, who gave details of its practice there and representations 
of phallic images. 

M. Bollaert mentioned that there is a disease peculiar to Quito, 
and that idiotcy is not known among the aboriginal races of North or 
of South America. 

Mr. Reddie inquired what evidence there was of the non-existence 
of idiotcy among the Indians of America. If that were proved to be 
the case, he thought it possible that the absence of idiots might 
be accounted for by supposing that the infants were destroyed when 
idiotic. That was the practice among the Greeks, or at least, was 
recommended by them. The facts on the subject were very 

Mr. Bollaert stated, in reply, that he was not aware that the In- 
dians destroyed any of their children. 

Dr. Turle asked whether any true case of plague had been known 
in South America. 

Mr. Bollaert said he thought not.